For the Love of FACS

Engineering a Holiday Classic

Gingerbread house

Designing and  constructing a gingerbread house is the ultimate baking project, traditionally undertaken during the holiday season, which makes it the perfect seasonal FACS project!  Typically a holiday gingerbread house is a slope-roofed confectionery structure covered with candy and dripping with frosting.  However, a gingerbread structure that exemplifies a specific architectural style can be appreciated any time of year.  Designing and creating a gingerbread house can give students experience in the science of baking, the engineering of constructing a stable structure, and the elements of architectural styles.

malibu gingerbread house


Architecture is a complex discipline which combines structural engineering with art. Designing a building that is structurally sound is the fundamental goal, but there are many other factors to be considered, as well. Buildings must be engineered to provide comfortable spaces for the people who will reside or work there while also being safe and environmentally responsible. Architecture is the discipline which enhances basic structures by incorporating pleasing aesthetics in their design.

You don’t have to be an engineer or an architect to construct the perfect gingerbread house, but an understanding of the basic principles of structural engineering and design will greatly enhance your chances of constructing a stable and aesthetically pleasing example of sweet architecture. When you understand the properties of the materials and their relationship to the overall design of the gingerbread structure, you can avoid many of the problems that may lead to catastrophic collapse.

Becoming a Gingerbread Architect

1. Select the architectural style for your gingerbread house.

  • Cape Cod
  • Victorian
  • Ranch
  • Bungalow
  • Prairie
  • Georgian
  • Saltbox
  • Federal
  • Colonial
  • Split level

2. Research and identify the basic architectural features of the housing style selected.

3. Using a basic gingerbread house template, design your gingerbread house.

4. Create a “parts list” of edible design elements required to complete your design.

5.  Prepare gingerbread dough.

gingerbread pieces

6. Cut and bake the pieces of your gingerbread house.

7. Select a sturdy base for your house enough to accommodate the structure as well as basic landscaping.

8. Construct the gingerbread house using Ornamental Frosting.  Allow to set overnight.

9. Add edible design elements appropriate to selected architectural style.

10. Add landscape features.

Identified as Sweet Architecture the complete 14-page activity for engineering a gingerbread house is available as a free download from the Fresh FACS website.  Download includes complete project directions, recipes, construction tips and templates and support materials.

Happy holidays!